11 December 2001

The Queensland Government and The University of Queensland have announced a $50 million Australian Institute of Bio-Engineering and Nanotechnology would be established in Brisbane.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said the new institute would be a first for Australia, and would provide a centre of excellence that would take the Smart State another giant step forward.

Mr Beattie said the Institute was the first project to be funded through the $100m Smart State Research Facilities Fund established in this year’s State Budget.

“I gave a commitment at BIO 2001 in San Diego to establish a nanotechnology institute under the Smart State Research Facilities Fund and today we’re delivering,” Mr Beattie said.

Today the Premier signed a Heads of Agreement with University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Hay, for the Centre’s construction to begin at the St Lucia campus.

Professor Hay said the institute would focus on an emerging area of biotechnology with the potential to enhance the quality of life of millions of people.

“Biology and chemistry have now come back together in ways that are having major impacts on both fields. Exciting new platform technologies are emerging that will revolutionise the health sciences,” he said.

“The institute is a logical development for Queensland’s growing biotechnology sector, and builds on the success of UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), which was established in 2000,” Professor Hay said.

Minister for Innovation and Information Economy, Paul Lucas, said his department had played a pivotal role in defining the objectives to establish a national centre in collaboration with The University of Queensland, sectors of government and other potential stakeholders.

“This has been about bringing together the relevant stakeholders to look at where to build critical mass in research and development, and to create a competitive advantage,” Mr Lucas said.

“This is what the Smart State is all about – building on traditional industries like rocks and crops, as well as building on the knowledge-based industries like ICT, biotechnology and nanotechnology.”

Mr Beattie said nanotechnology was an important new area of research and industry, with potential benefits for fields such as health, manufacturing, information technology and the environment.

“Nanotechnology is the ability to systematically build structures at the molecular level, atom by atom,” Mr Beattie said.

“We are talking about manipulating atoms and molecules as small as one billionth a metre across. That means 28 million of them could be placed in a line across a 20 cent coin.

“It is estimated the nanotechnology industry is already worth $US 45 billion a year and that is expected to grow to $US 225 billion a year by 2005.

“Nanotechnology will provide the building blocks of the future. Iit’s the ‘Smart State’ technologies that will drive employment opportunities in Queensland in the years ahead.”

The Queensland Government, the University of Queensland and an overseas philanthropic organisation are funding the new institute.

Mr Beattie said the CSIRO would also be a key contributor to the institute.

The national deputy CEO of the CSIRO, Paul Wellings, has advised that by the end of 2002 his organisation would establish up to 10 new researcher new positions in the Institute.

“I am convinced that centres of excellence such as this are the way of the future,” Mr Beattie said.

“One important application in combination with biomaterials is development of materials that are less likely to be rejected by the body when used in tissue or organ replacement.

Media: For more information contact Peter McCutcheon (07 3365 1088 or 0413 380012) at UQ Communications